External Processing, Thoughtful Dialogue and Pride

dialogue-tagsI find myself in the curious cultural position of being an external processor. I think out loud and I learn by considering other viewpoints and talking through ideas. I sometimes put ideas out in the public sphere specifically to facilitate discussion and learn from others. But I have been accused of “trolling” (I had to actually Urban Dictionary the phrase the first time it came up) because this sometimes means posting about controversial topics. I am offended by the trolling comment because it assumes ill-intent in my motives for posting about controversial issues. As if I’m simply wanting to incite people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I guess I can see where the accusation comes from. It’s our natural bent to avoid controversy. Unless you’re a power hungry reality television star, who believes that all press is good press. But I digress. After all, it is considered impolite to discuss religion and politics at family functions. But why? Well, because faith and politics are issues held with the head and the heart. Our beliefs become convictions. And we often can’t seem to really figure out how religion and politics go together in the first place, can we? Much less how to thoughtfully discuss issues without becoming needlessly offended or needlessly offending.

When you disagree with my political position, you also disagree with my religious position which also means that you’ve attached me personally (or so we think). Emotions are the track for these roller coaster discussions. Tempers flare from crests of emotions because to disagree with my convictions is to disagree with me. And how could any sane person believe what you just said. I’m saying you’re a moron. But . . .

Cultural Arrogance, Christians and Political Independents

Arizona_flagOver the past couple of months I have had two nearly identical situations in which different Christians have said nearly the exact same thing to me. I won’t say what it was but I will say that the nearly duplicate events set me to some thinking. Each situation centered around the other person offering their (unsolicited) opinion that (I’m paraphrasing here): “Of course all Christians in America think like I do and I’m going out of my way to point out that you don’t think like I do”.

I don’t think either person meant to really insinuate that they thought I am not actually a Christian but that was certainly an unintended implication of their statements. Either that or that they think I’m less intelligent than them. Or both.

Essentially, the bigger picture made manifest in these two conversations is that many Christians seem to believe that there is only one way to think. Of course this tendency to sweep entire groups aside is not isolated to Christians. This is the heart of what the two-party system now engenders. But, Christians, of all people should resist such urges. And yet, we seem as susceptible as anyone. Consider, for example,  Arminians and Calvinists continually nipping at one another. I have known people in both camps who have said that if you were in the other camp, then “of course you can’t be Christian”. Poppycock.

Perhaps one of the areas where see this tendency made most evident is with politics. “Of course a Christian belongs to “X”  or “Y” party”. The problem, of course, is that there are Christians in every political party who believe this (Google here or here).

There is a certain type of cultural arrogance on display here. We forget or ignore that, in some theological areas and in politics, we are dealing with interpretations and opinions. Your worldview leads you to believe that political approach “x” is better for society but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those who hold approach “y” are wrong, just that you hold different viewpoints.

We (Christians included) have come to believe that, if only the other group were smarter or would think more critically, then of course they would agree with me because, after all, “I’m right”. But we forget that this arrogance of opinion is no less present in the other group. Instead of admitting that we hold certain opinions, even if we hold them strongly, we turn our positions into “facts” which cannot be disputed. The two-party political system was designed so that those holding differing views would compromise and meet in the middle. Yet both parties now decry centrists as somehow being weak on the party line. The result has been that the far edges of each party controls the narrative and is left with nothing to do but simply denigrate the other resulting in gridlock and a broken political system.

Instead of working together, we demean and belittle the other side of the aisle (no matter which side you’re on) instead of striving for compromise, we dig in our heels. Welcome to politics (and theology) in America.

Christians have no place in such shenanigans. I’m not saying that Christians should not be involved in politics. But I am saying that Christians should never stay with a party of our “party loyalty”. This is fine for career politicians but not for Christians. When Christians pledge party loyalty, we give up our prophetic voice.

We are to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). We add flavor and preserve but we are not actually part of the main dish. We’re there to make it better. We are supposed to be in but not of the culture. We are to strive first and foremost for the kingdom of God and proclaim our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven. We are to work for the good of our cities and this require that we rise above political bickering. We are to call out evil and injustice no matter where it exists and that includes every political party. Ours is a calling above partisanship and ours is a family with people on both sides of the aisle.

Christians should avoid divisiveness. We should find plenty to disagree with in every political party and we should remember that our allegiance lies with none of them. We must stand above the fray and speak the Truth and lead with love. We must demonstrate humility that is demonstrated in a willingness, especially, to work with those with whom we disagree.

It seems to me that Christians should nearly always be political independents. I understand that you believe that your worldview (as biblically-minded as you insist it is) lead you to support one political party or the other. But, remember, it is possible to be a Christians and belong to the “other” party. And Christians should avoid “party loyalty.” When any political party feels like it can “count on” Christians for our support, we are no longer holding them accountable for the betterment of society, we are nothing more than voting blocks (i.e. pawns).

This current political season is a vital time for Christians in America. Many Christians who should be holding hands, praying together and working for justice and peace are more than willing to simply sweep aside those who disagree. May we regain our prophetic voice and shirk the yoke of political loyalty.

Trumpeters And Gospel Deficiency

12342869_10153827861846450_6195041571918097602_nMuch to my dismay, it’s a mixed bag that the ol’ Donald, who, if you have not heard, is running for President, has been in the press lately in the context of American Evangelicalism, of which I am loosely a part.

I say “much to my dismay” because it pains my heart that some self-professing Christians seem to support Donald Trump as, not only a viable presidential candidate but have come out in support of him. As you may have heard, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. recently endorsed Donald Trump for President.

I say “it’s a mixed bag” because at least this has caused toe “mainstream media” to try and understand Evangelicalism, even if it’s just to say: “Are some of you people really considering voting for this guy who so openly and adamantly opposes so many of your views?!” For example, CNN recently posted “3 questions evangelicals should ask about Donald Trump“. Have we really come to this point where the American Church is being told by CNN why a potential presidential candidate is simply not sympatico with our stated beliefs?

Even with all of this, there may yet to be some good to come of this socio-political fiasco identity crisis. Rightly or wrongly, Christianity has long held a special place at the table of American culture. It has been the assumed religion. So much so that many claim this to be a “Christian nation”. This is dangerous for Christianity because it implies that following Jesus is somehow equatable with the “American Dream”. It is not and it seems that there is a growing number of people coming to believe that the predominant version of Christianity practiced in America is not “Christianity” at all but something called “moralistic therapeutic deism” (oh look, I wrote about this very thing!).

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As a church planting pastor, I do think it’s worth seriously considering the fact that some people who claim to be Christians have publicly come out in support of Donald Trump’s bid for the White House. What, if anything does this say about the version of Christianity adopted by many in the United States? We are left with some serious questions regarding the heart of of how Christianity is or is not practiced.

Trump clearly plays on a competitive spirit. What does the Bible say about trying to get ahead at the possible expense of others? Trump talks tough with threats of violence to adversaries. What does the Bible say about how we should treat others, even our enemies? Trump brags that he has never asked forgiveness. Not even from God. What does the Bible say . . . do I really even have to finish this one? Trump says that he will deport the refugees and build a wall around our suburb. What does the Bible say about how we should treat the foreigner? Those less fortunate? Those seeking safety and security?Trump has repeatedly left his current wife for his next. What does the Bible say about the importance of marriage? Trump has repeatedly denigrated women. What does the Bible say about equality? Trump has repeated denigrated anyone he disagrees with. What does the Bible say about how we use our words? What does the Bible say about the relationship between our words and what’s in our hearts? I could keep going but I’ve even exhausted myself.

What I do want to consider is the saddening fact that those people who do claim to be Christians and express support for Donald Trump may, in fact, suffer from what I have dubbed “gospel deficiency”. We don’t have time (or the patience right now) to address every question raised in the previous paragraph, but I would like us to consider some generalities when it comes to the outlook on life assumed by the Bible for those brought to life by the Gospel (the good news of who Jesus is and what He’s done).

Consider just a few verses in light of Trump’s campaign and public persona:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

“If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21)

How can people who claim to love Jesus consider supporting a candidate like Trump? I believe that the answer is not political but theological. If you support Trump it’s because you don’t fully understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its implications for life and how we should live. In fact, it is likely that you suffer from Gospel Deficiency. I’m not saying that you can’t be saved and support Donald Trump. Far be it from me to judge someone’s heart. But it does seem that in order to support Donald Trump, you must turn a blind eye to many of the things God says to describe His people.

You can be alive but be iron deficient. I suppose you can be a Christian and suffer from Gospel Deficiency as well. You believe enough to put your faith in Jesus  for salvation but not enough to know that Jesus tells us that our hearts should not focus not found in this world (Matthew 6:21) and to be anxious for nothing (Matthew 6:25:-34). Paul tells us to consider others as more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:1-11). You can identify as a Christian but the truth is that if the Truth has set you free, you will reject principles based on fear, prejudice and anger while Donald Trump openly accepts the “mantle of anger“. When the Gospel takes root, we begin to flower with kindness, meekness, self-control, (Galatians 5:22-23) all things conspicuously absent from Trump’s public persona.

I suppose the real issue I’m wrestling with is this: I just don’t see how you can understand biblical teaching and then support someone like Donald Trump for anything other than class clown.

Can you help me understand?

the Weekly Town Crier

London's Town Crier copySometimes I just don’t know, man. I mean it all just seems like so much already, doesn’t it? I know that it weighs you down. I know it can feel like a beatdown. Some days it feels like the clouds will never lift.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Large Hearted Boy‘s list of “100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads.”

Listen to a mix of some of my favorite songs released in 2015.

Browse my 42 favorite albums of the year.

Read as Noisey considers “Why Fugazi‘s Politics Are As Frighteningly Relevant Today As They Were In 1988″.

Read as The Guardian considers David Bowie‘s literary influences.

  • Read FACT Magazine‘s report that Bowie is being honored with a constellation.
  • Read as Noisey considers Bowie’s influence on Hip Hop.
  • Read Billboard‘s report that Blackstar is Bowie’s first Number one album.
  • Watch Fred Armisen pay tribute to David Bowie on Saturday Night Live.
  • Read Consequence of Sound‘s report that a Labyrinth reboot is in the works.

Read Okay Player’s report: “Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) Arrested In Cape Town”.

Read as Brain Pickings considers “The Psychology of What Makes a Great Story”.

Read as George Orwell considers “the Four Questions a Great Writer Must Ask Herself”.

Read reports that “Target Will Soon Let You Drink Alcohol While You Shop”.

Read one music fan’s account of why they protested a Viet Cong concert over the band’s name.

Read as The Atlantic considers “How Sleep Deprivation Decays the Mind and Body”.

HearWendell Berry on How to Be a Poet”.

R.I.P. Glenn Frey of the Eagles.

R.I.P. drummer for Mott the Hoople, Dale ‘Buffin’ Griffin.

Read as The Daily Beast considers the rise and fall of Eddie Murphy: “In the ’80s the Beverly Hills Cop star was as hot as it got in Hollywood, and somehow everything went sour.”

See photographs of early Apple prototypes.

Read as Ars Technica spent one week with Apples CarPlay.

Watch Arcade Fire & Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s Second Line For David Bowie” at Stereogum.

Hear as “Ray Bradbury Reads His Poem “If Only We Had Taller Been” in a Rare 1971 Recording”.

Read AV Club‘s report that Steven Moffat is leaving Doctor Who.

Read Newsweek‘s report that Elon Musk’s “hyperloop” could be ready by 2018.

Hear David Foster Wallace‘s famous Kenyon College address.

Read as Amin Maalouf considers “How to Disagree”.

BrowseHenry Miller’s 11 Commandments of Writing and Daily Creative Routine”.

Read as The Atlantic considers “The Racially Fraught History of the American Beard”.

Read as The Daily Beast wonders “Can Whiskey Cure Your Common Cold?”

Read this report that half of all money spent on music in 2015 went to live concerts.

Read Consequence of Sound‘s report: “Neil Patrick Harris to star in Netflix’s adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events“.

Read as Salon argues: We spend more time and money on parenting than ever — but we are getting worse”.

Read as Jim Wallis argues: “White Christians need to act more Christian than white: White evangelicals need to repent for how we’ve enabled racism.”

Read Stereogum‘s report that HBO’s new series Vinyl features new songs from Iggy Pop, Chris Cornell and a theme song written by Sturgill Simpson.

Read People Magazine’s report that Girl Meets World‘s Rowan Blanchard has self-identified as “queer”.

Browse the list for the 2016 Penderyn Music Book Prize.

Buy a Drake coloring book.

Read Consequence of Sound‘s report: “Netflix is developing a new animated series from Simpsons creator Matt Groening.”

Read Smithsonian‘s report: “The Odds in a Coin Flip Aren’t Quite 50/50”.

Read PRI‘s report: “Your paper brain and your Kindle brain aren’t the same thing”.

Read “Relevant”‘s piece: “Why the Church Should Support #BlackLivesMatter”.

Read as the New York Times considers “The Eight-Second Attention Span”.

Read as SciTechNow wonders if there really is such a thing as Introversion.

the Weekly Town Crier

London's Town Crier copySometimes you have to make choices in life. Sometimes you even have to make difficult choices. Like what to do with your time. I mean, come on, there’s only so much time in the day and you have to be careful how you spend it

That’s where the Weekly Town Crier comes in. There’s no longer any reason for you wander aimlessly through the nameless paths of the Interwebs. I collect links of varying degrees of interest and you show your interest by clicking on them and reading them and thinking about them and then next week we do it all over again.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Large Hearted Boy‘s list of “100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads.”

Listen to a mix of some of my favorite songs released in 2015.

Browse my 42 favorite albums of the year.

Ever wonder how to read more books?

Read as The Atlantic considers “Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories”.

Read about the push to rename a Jack and Coke to a “Lemmy”.

Read about the recent study finding that $9.99 is too much for most people to pay for streaming music.

R.I.P. country music legend Red Simpson.

R.I.P. David Bowie.

  • Read Pitchfork‘s report that Bowie was planning another album.
  • Read as Gregory Alan Thornbury wonders “What do we learn from the complicated legacy of a beloved icon?” for Christianity Today.
  • Read as Iggy Pop shares his Bowie memories.

R.I.P. Alan Rickman.

Read as “Relevant” argues that people should stop expecting churches to “feed” them.

Read as Time explores rumors that Apple will include wireless earbuds with the next iPhone.

Read as Flavorwire considers rumors that the next season of Arrested Development will be a serialized murder mystery.

Read as Quartz reports: “Philosophers want to know why physicists believe theories they can’t prove”.

Read as Outside magazine considers our “Chris McCandless Obsession Problem”.

Read about Metallica apologizing to a Metallica cover band about the “Cease and Desist” letter they received from an “overzealous attorney”.

See “what America would look like without gerrymandering” at The Washington Post.

Meet the “Super 8″ Camera Designed for Internet Kids” at the Creators Project.

Read/watch as CNN considers “Why Adult Coloring Books Are So Good For You”.

Read Paste magazines report of an all-star Blind Willie Johnson tribute including Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams and others.

Browse the complete Netflix genre list.

Read Salon‘s report: “Donald Trump talks at a fourth-grade level.”

Read about the recent study conducted by Spotify about Spotify playlists finding that Blink-182 is the second-most “punk” band, after Green Day.

Hear “The Only Surviving Recording of Virginia Woolf’s Voice” from 1937.

Read “Galileo on Why We Read and How Books Give Us Superhuman Powers” at Brain Pickings.

Browse a collection of “Ridiculously Outdated Mobile Phones in Movies” at Flavorwire.

Read Comicbook.com‘s report: “Kevin Smith To Direct An Episode of The Flash“.

Read as “Dave Grohl, Slash, Metallica, more share their fondest memories of Lemmy at Motörhead frontman’s funeral”.

Read as “Relevant” considers what many Christians “Get Wrong About ‘In the World, Not of the World’.

SeeThe Raven: Lou Reed’s Adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe, Illustrated by Italian Artist Lorenzo Mattotti” at Brain Pickings.

Read at the Atlantic about the 2016 Oscar nominations having been announced.

Read Stereogum‘s report that SoundCloud is launching a paid subscription service.

Read as The Creators Project considers how “Apple Wants to Teach You How to Get the Most Out of Your Phone”.

Hear A Song From Violent Femmes‘ First Album In 15 Years” at NPR.

Watch Adele sing, talk, and rap in a car ride with James Corden.

Read as The Federalist considers “Why Jaded Adults Are Buying Stacks of Coloring Books”.

the Weekly Town Crier

London's Town Crier copyI think you know what I mean. I think you know what I really mean. Well, actually. Hold on there a minute. I haven’t said anything yet for you to even know what I could mean. Much less what I really mean.

So I suppose I should come up with something really clever to say here. Something about how the Weekly Town Crier is where I collect links of varying levels of interest and pas them along to you for your interest in the interesting links.

Enjoy.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Large Hearted Boy‘s list of “100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads.”

Listen to a mix of some of my favorite songs released in 2015.

Browse my 42 favorite albums of the year.

Read NPR’s piece: “Learning Soft Skills In Childhood Can Prevent Harder Problems Later.”

Now you can have a robot act as maid of honour at your wedding.”

Read as Salon considers “How the Samurai warrior inspired the Jedi Knights.”

Read as Sojourners considers “‘Firefly‘ and the Dignity of Humanity.”

Read an account of “Kurt Vonnegut’s Daily Routine.”

Read as NPR considers “The Neuroscience Of Musical Perception.”

Watch as The Atlantic considers “Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive?”

Read as The Atlantic considers the public zoning backlash against small community libraries.

Read as Consequence of Sound‘s catches up with Henry Rollins.

  • See Henry Rollins build and destroy a gingerbread house.

Read as Mother Jones considers Pete Seeger‘s FBI file.

Read as T Bone Burnett considers “Our culture loves music. Too bad our economy doesn’t value it” for The Washington Post.

Read as No Depression asks: “How Did You Find Your Favorite Albums This Year?”

See the “Secret catalog of gadgets police and feds can use to spy on your cellphone.”

Read as the Atlantic considers “Machines That Can See Depression on a Person’s Face.”

Read The Creator‘s Project‘s piece: “The Art of Reflection Within the Rothko Chapel.”

Read about “The Exemplary Narcissism of Snoopy.”

Read as The Guardian considers “Hidden gems of 2015: great records you may have missed.”

Read as KJZZ considers the “Mixed Reactions To Anheuser-Busch’s Plans To Buy Four Peaks Brewing Company.”

Read as Rolling Stone considers the impact of the Grateful Dead‘s farewell shows.

Read Okay Player‘s piece: “Killer Mike, Big Boi + More Will Testify On Hip Hop’s Behalf In Front Of The Supreme Court Today.”

Browse The Washington Post‘s ranking of the country’s best “food cities.”

See Shane McGowan’s new teeth.

See someone “Pouring a Thermos of Hot Tea at -40°C Near the Arctic Circle.”

See the card that caused Steve Harvey’s worst nightmare.

Browse “A Beginner’s Guide To Frank Zappa“.

Read Stereogum‘s report that Lenny Kravitz is being accused of illegal dentistry in the Bahamas.

Read about many Muslim women asking non-Muslim women not to wear the hajib “in the name of interfaith solidarity.”

Read Noisey‘s interview with “The Founder of ‘Yeezianity’, The First Religion Based Onn Kanye West“.

Meet the finalists who could design the Obama Presidential Center.”

Read CNN‘s report: “Vatican paper says ‘The Force Awakens’ is not evil enough”.

Fueling the rumors that Apple is ditching the 3.5mm headjack, read Hypebeast‘s report: “Apple is Developing its Own High Quality Audio Format.”

Read Rolling Stone‘s article: “Cheap Trick‘s Bun E. Carlos on Possible Rock Hall Reunion: Any friendship we had went away when I had to file a federal lawsuit,” says drummer.”

Read as Christianity Today considers “Why We Get Religious About ‘Star Wars’.

Read The New York Times’ article: “New Novel From Jonathan Safran Foer Coming in September.”

Read “The Story Behind The Famous Portrait of André The Giant Clutching A Beer Can.”

Read CNN‘s piece about companies with “mandatory” vacation policies.

Read Noisey‘s report about the “rebirth” of CBGBs . . . as a NJ airport restaurant.

Browse Pixar color palettes.

Read Rolling Stone‘s interview with Leon Bridges.

Read about the new “451” internet error code for internet censorship.

Read The Stranger‘s piece: “How Christianity Infiltrated Seattle Music with a Little Help from Mars Hill Church and the City Council.”

Read as Noisey considers the rise and fall of Ozzy Osbourne.

Read as The Washington Post considers “Why it’s a good sign if you curse a lot.”

Read Amazon one-star reviews of some of the year’s biggest albums.

See bonsai skulls.

Browse Flavorwires‘s picks for the best literary criticism of 2015.

Read as Christopher Hitchens considers George Orwell.

Read as AV Club considers the year in band names.

Read as Literary Hub considers how “White Christmas” started the trend of popular Christmas songs.

Browse this list of “The Most Googled Artists of 2015”.

Read “Relevant”‘s report: “The Sultan of Brunei Has Literally Outlawed Christmas.”

Read The Washington Post‘s piece: “My husband read to me while I was sick. It changed our marriage.”

Watch as The Atlantic asks what you wish you had learned in college but didn’t.

See a fountain in China made from 10,000 toilets.

Read as Techly considers “Five Things You Don’t Know About Beer (But Probably Should).”

Go with Fast Company into the secretive world of Freemasonry in this photo essay.

Read the Washington Post‘s report that “The Republican debate stage could shrink considerably next month” based on new rules.

Watch Steve Harvey announce the wrong winner for the Miss Universe pageant.

Watch what could happen to your body if you drank 10 cans of Coke every day. Please don’t drink 10 cans of soda every day.

See “inflatable hotel rooms.”

Read Outside magazine’s ode to the VW Vanagon.

Since we no longer live in a culture in which people own important albums, you will soon be able to stream The Beatles‘ catalog.

Poor Nicholas Cage has been forced to return his T-Rex skull.

See the decaying church building repurposed as an artsy skate park.

Read as Slate considers the impact of “bro country”.

Read about how Facebook helped solve the riddle of an ancient artifact.

Read as Salon considers the possibility of an R.E.M. reunion.

Read about U2‘s Bono buying the Eagles of Death Metal new phones to replace the ones they lost in the Paris attacks.

the Weekly Town Crier

London's Town Crier copyI know what you’re thinking: Gosh-dangit, this guy is at it again?! Does he really think we care this much about what he found so interesting this week?! Yes, yes I do think you’re interested in what I found interesting this week. That’s why you’re hear, isn’t it? Admit it, you’re interested. And that’s interesting, isn’t it?

Welcome to the Weekly Town Crier: where I collect links to various things I found interesting this week. You read what interests you and skip what doesn’t and we’ll all be happily interesting together. Separate. On our computers.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Large Hearted Boy‘s list of “100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads.”

It’s the most wonderful time of year: year-end list time!

  • * = Added to the list this week.
  • Listen as All Songs Considered considers the year in music.
  • Browse American Songwriter’s picks for the “Top 50 Albums of 2015.”
  • Browse Aquarium Drunkard‘s unranked picks for music of the year. *
  • Browse AV Club‘s picks for “The 15 best albums of 2015.”
  • Browse AV Club‘s picks for their favorite books of the year. *
  • Browse AV Club‘s picks for: “graphic novels, one-shots, and archives of 2015.” *
  • Browse as Christianity Today hands out their annual books awards. *
  • Browse Consequence of Sound‘s picks for the “Top 50 Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Consequence of Sound‘s picks for the “Top 50 Albums of the Year.”
  • Browse The Daily Beast‘s picks for “The Most Overlooked Movies of the Year.” *
  • Browse The Daily Beast‘s picks for music of the year. *
  • Browse David Dye’s (World Café) dspicks for albums of the year. *
  • Browse Design Week’s picks for their favorite album covers.
  • Browse Drowned In Sound‘s favorite albums of 2015. *
  • Browse FACT‘s picks for the best record labels of the year.
  • Browse FACT‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse as First Things considers their year in books. *
  • Browse Flavorwire‘s picks for “The 50 Best Independent Press Books of 2015.”
  • Browse Flavorwire‘s picks for the best nonfiction books of the year. *
  • Browse as Bill Gates picks his favorite books read in 2015. *
  • Browse The Gospel Coalition editors’ picks for books of the year. *
  • Browse iBooks‘s favorite books of 2015. *
  • Browse iTunes‘ favorite music of 2015. *
  • Browse iTunes‘s favorite movies of 2015. *
  • Browse as the KEXP DJ’s make their picks.
  • Browse The New York Times‘s picks for their favorite albums of 2015. *
  • Browse NME‘s albums of the year.
  • Browse as No Depression considers “Great albums at the bottom of the list.” *
  • Browse Noisey‘s picks for songs of the year.
  • Browse Noisey‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse NPR Music’s “50 Favorite Albums Of 2015.”
  • Browse NPR’s picks for the best books of 2015
  • Browse OkayPlayer‘s favorite albums of the year. *
  • Browse as Pandora reveals the top 100 “thumbed up” songs of 2015.
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for the “The 50 Best Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for “The 10 Best Box Sets of 2015.”
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for “The Best Comic Books of 2015.”
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for “The 20 Best New Bands of 2015.” *
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for the best canned beers of 2015. *
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for the best fiction books of the year. *
  • Browse (part one/part two) Phoenix New Times‘s picks for best AZ songs this year. *
  • Browse Piccadilly Records‘s choices.
  • Browse Pitchfork‘s top 50 albums of the year. *
  • Browse as Pop Matters‘s makes their picks for “The 80 Best Albums of 2015.”
  • Browse The Quietus‘s picks.
  • Browse “Relevants” top 10 albums of 2015.
  • Browse Rolling Stone‘s picks.
  • Browse Rough Trade‘s picks for their favorite albums of the year.
  • Browse Spin‘s picks for “The 50 Best Albums of 2015.”
  • Browse Spin‘s picks for the “101 Best Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for their favorite new bands of 2015.
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for their “80 Favorite Songs Of 2015.”
  • Browse Time‘s picks for the top 10 movies of the year. *
  • Browse Time‘s top 100 photographs of the year. *
  • Browse Tiny Mix Tape‘s 50 favorite albums of 2015. *
  • Browse Uncut‘s favorite albums of 2015.
  • Browse Under the Radar‘s 2015 picks. *
  • Browse Vogue‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse the favorite music from Zia Records‘ staff. *

See Banksy remind the world that Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian immigrant.

Read Vanity Fair‘s piece: “Frank Sinatra’s Drummer Tells the Story of His Final Concert.”

Browse as Marie Claire recommends: “6 Graphic Novels By Women You Need To Read.”

Browse as the Rumpus recommends books about Bob Dylan.

Browse Baeble‘s list of “The 10 Most Ridiculous Moments In Music In 2015.”

Browse Paste‘s picks for “18 Documentaries about Writers.”

Browse Paste‘s “Complete Guide to Music Snobbery in Noah Baumbach Movies.”

Watch the Oh Hello’s perform a Tiny Desk Concert.

Download a vintage holiday mixtape from Aquarium Drunkard.

Read Consequence of Sound‘s report: “Pandora executive says Steve Jobs “eviscerated the music industry”.

  • Read the New York Times‘ report that “Apple Gains Exclusive Streaming Deal With Taylor Swift.”

Read as The Atlantic considers “Why L.L. Bean’s Boots Keep Selling Out.”

Read CNN‘s report that scientists claim that the Mona Lisa is actually hiding another painting.

Browse “Relevant”‘s picks for “The Best Christmas Movies on Netflix.”

Watch/read CNN‘s report: “5 things you didn’t know about satanists”.

Read as The Atlantic considers “Why Americans All Believe They Are ‘Middle Class'”.

Watch as The Atlantic ponders near death experiences.

Read Slate‘s piece about Walmart entering the pay-account business: “After Refusing to Take Apple Pay, Walmart Launches Walmart Pay.”

Read/listen as NPR’s Here and Now considers Kentucky’s “First Woman Master Distiller In Modern Times”.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is Giving You Over 400,000 High-Res Digital Images For Free“.

Read about the North Carolina town who “rejects solar because it’ll suck up sunlight and kill the plants”.

Browse NME‘s list of “100 Lost Albums You Need To Know.”

Read as The Daily Beast wonders “Is This Stone the Clue to Why Jesus Was Killed?”

Read Uncut‘s report: “Iggy Pop, Buzzcocks and The Damned to celebrate punk’s 40th anniversary at Isle of Wight Festival.”

Read as The Atlantic considers why “There’s No Such Thing as Free Shipping”.

Read the Guardian‘s piece: “Rachel Dolezal: ‘I wasn’t identifying as black to upset people. I was being me’.

See what “$1,000 Per Month In Rent Will Get You Around The U.S.”

Read/see Salon‘s piece “Scientists claim this is how Jesus Christ really looked”.

Read as Andrew Jones considers the little-known Christian roots of Yoga.

Read Brain Picking‘s piece: “Bob Dylan on Sacrifice, the Unconscious Mind, and How to Cultivate the Perfect Environment for Creative Work.”

  • Read as the Washington Post considers why Bob Dylan lyrics pop up so much in medical literature.

Read Flavorwire‘s profile of Jukely, the subscription service for concerts.

Read The Daily Beast‘s report that MLB will not reinstate Pete Rose.

Hear Neko Case on NPR’s quiz show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

Read National Geographic‘s profile of Joe Pug.

Read a report that Mark Driscoll has filed incorporation papers for a new church in the Phoenix, AZ area.

Read as Christianity Today considers the infiltration of multi-level marketing into American Evangelical churches.

Browse Turntable Kitchen‘s holiday gift guide for music lovers.

Read Harper Lee‘s 1961 piece My Christmas in New York.

Read Stereogum‘s report: “Amazon Developing Scripted Series About The Grateful Dead.

Browse Vice‘s “Definitive Guide to Hipster Music Genres.”

Read Pitchfork‘s piece: “Lowell Brams Discusses Sufjan Stevens‘ Album About His Life.”

Read GQ‘s profile of Hillsong, NYC, church to, among others, Kevin Durant and Justin Bieber.

See a man’s beer can collection, worth over $1 million.

Read about the Wheaton professor suspended after saying that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

Read as Christianity Today considers the recent surge of hymns in the spotlight.

Read as Merle Haggard discusses his recent health scare.

Try Charles Mingus‘ potent egg nog recipe at your own risk.

Read Flavorwire‘s piece: “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Seals Its Irrelevance With Another Year of Sad Boomer Inductees.”

the Weekly Town Crier

London's Town Crier copyYeah, you know that’s right. This is how we do it. and other stuff all you cool kids say on the beat. Wait for the drop. Get your groove on.

Actually, I doubt anyone actually reads this first part so it doesn’t really matter what nonsense I come with, now does it? Let’s be real. There are lots more important things for us to consider. Like, for instance, some of the links I found interesting this week. I hope you find them interesting as well.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Large Hearted Boy‘s list of “100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads.”

Browse Taste of Cinema‘s picks for “The 15 Most Memorable Songs Used In Wes Anderson Movies.”

  • Read Consequence of Sound‘s report: “Bill Murray signs on for Wes Anderson’s next film.’

It’s the most wonderful time of year: year-end list time!

  • * = Added to the list this week.
  • Listen as All Songs Considered considers the year in music.
  • Browse American Songwriter’s picks for the “Top 50 Albums of 2015.”
  • Browse AV Club‘s picks for “The 15 best albums of 2015.” *
  • Browse Consequence of Sound‘s picks for the “Top 50 Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Consequence of Sound‘s picks for the “Top 50 Albums of the Year.”
  • Browse Design Week’s picks for their favorite album covers.
  • Browse FACT‘s picks for the best record labels of the year.
  • Browse FACT‘s picks for albums of the year. *
  • Browse Flavorwire‘s picks for “The 50 Best Independent Press Books of 2015.”
  • Browse as the KEXP DJ’s make their picks.
  • Browse NME‘s albums of the year.
  • Browse Noisey‘s picks for songs of the year.
  • Browse Noisey‘s picks for albums of the year. *
  • Browse NPR Music’s “50 Favorite Albums Of 2015.” *
  • Browse NPR’s picks for the best books of 2015 *
  • Browse as Pandora reveals the top 100 “thumbed up” songs of 2015.
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for the “The 50 Best Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for “The 10 Best Box Sets of 2015.” *
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for “The Best Comic Books of 2015.” *
  • Browse Piccadilly Records‘s choices.
  • Browse as Pop Matters‘s makes their picks for “The 80 Best Albums of 2015.” *
  • Browse The Quietus‘s picks.
  • Browse Rolling Stone‘s picks.
  • Browse Rough Trade‘s picks for their favorite albums of the year.
  • Browse Spin‘s picks for “The 50 Best Albums of 2015.”
  • Browse Spin‘s picks for the “101 Best Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for their favorite new bands of 2015.
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for their “80 Favorite Songs Of 2015.” *
  • Browse Uncut‘s favorite albums of 2015.

Read The Atlantic‘s piece: “Quick Thinkers Seem Charismatic, Even If They’re Not That Smart.”

See A Rare Video For Bob Dylan‘s ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’ at NPR.

R.I.P. Robert Loggia.

R.I.P. North Face founder Douglas Tompkins.

Listen To Wilco’s Episode Of Song Exploder.”

Browse Fast Company‘s list of “7 Common Public Speaking Tips You Should Ignore.”

Read Time‘s report: “Samsung to Pay Apple $548 Million in Patent Case.”

  • Read The Verge’s report: “Apple waited too long to get into music streaming,” ending with the line: “If Apple is serious about winning in music streaming, the bar must be raised. The name on the door isn’t enough anymore.’

See “A Stunning Scale Model of Our Solar System, Drawn in the Desert.”

Read/listen to NPR’s piece: “After Mass Shootings, People Turn To Prayer — And Prayer Shaming.”

Read The New Yorker‘s piece: “How Jane Vonnegut Made Kurt Vonnegut A Writer.”

See “What Happens When Millennials Try To Use Their Grandparents’ Technology.”

If you’re in the Phoenix area and looking for a way to help others this Holiday Season, browse Flourish Phoenix‘ list of “11 Ways to Love Our Neighbors this Christmas.”

Read The Atlantic‘s piece: “Why God Will Not Die: Science keeps revealing how much we don’t, perhaps can’t, know. Yet humans seek closure, which should make religious pluralists of us all.”

Read as First Things considers the disappearance of Advent from the regular practice of many churches.

Read Slate‘s report that “Amazon Just Bought Its Own Fleet of Semi-Trucks.”

Read as The New Yorker considers “How Energy-Drink Companies Prey On Male Insecurities.”

Browse NME‘s list of “61 of the Greatest Film Soundtracks Ever.”

Read as The Daily Beast considers: “A new study finds that people who love bulls**t inspirational quotes have lower intelligence and more “conspiratorial ideations.”

Watch as “Colbert Explains Why ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ Matter”.

Read as Russell Moore reminds us “Why Christians must speak out against Donald Trump’s Muslim remarks.”

Read as Pitchfork considers “How Playlists Are Curating The Future of Music.”

Read BBC News‘ report that Jimmy Carter is now cancer-free.

Read as the Smithsonian considers “How Twitching Frog Legs Helped Inspire Frankenstein“.

Read as Scott Weiland’s ex-wife and children share some sobering thoughts about the man behind the songs.

See “Inside Walt Disney’s Immaculately Reconstructed Office.”

Read as Paste considers “How The Internet Killed Late-Night Comedy.”

Read as “Rush’s Neil Peart says he’s retired from music”. Wait, no. Read this report that says Rush are not breaking up after all.

Read Thom Yorke‘s letter to Father Christmas, asking for reading clashes and letting oil companies have it.

Read as Christianity Today wonders: “Do Babies Go to Heaven?”

Read as Gary Clark Jr. considers five songs he wishes he’d written with Rolling Stone.

Read Rolling Stone‘s report that Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, and the Weeknd Lead this year’s Grammy Nominations.

Download Noisetrade‘s 2015 Holiday Mix.

Read Lifeway’s report: “Successful new churches share four factors” at Christianity Today.

Read Pitchfork‘s report that The Replacements biography has been announced, with participation from band members.

Read The Concourse‘s piece: “Happy 20th Birthday To This American Life, Which Is Way Darker Than You Think.”

Read/Listen to NPR’s report that Germany’s Angela Merkel has been named as Time‘s Person of the Year.

Read NPR’s report that Diane Rehm will retire from her long-running broadcast show after the 2016 presidential election.

Read as The Gospel Coalition considers “How Twitter Helped Fred Phelp’s Granddaughter Walk Away From Westboro.”

Meet Kanye West‘s pastor who has his own reality show, “Rich In Faith.”

Browse Food & Wine‘s list of “50 Amazing Nanobreweries in 50 States.”

Read Boing Boing‘s report that Marriott hotels will be “removing desks from its hotel rooms “because Millennials”.

Read “A Christian Case for Ending the War on Drugs The unintended consequences of America’s drug policies” at “Relevant”.

Read Christianity Today‘s report: “Pastors and Pews Vastly Disagree on Discipleship Success.”

Read OkayPlayer‘s report that Wu-Tang Clan has given themselves and/or Bill Murray permission to legally steal their $2 Million album sold to “Pharma Bro”.

Read Christianity Today‘s report that C.S. Lewis was a secret government agent.

ReadNietzsche on the Power of Music”.

the Weekly Town Crier

London's Town Crier copyWell, I don’t know what to tell you. Another week has gone by. We’re all a few steps closer to the grave. Perhaps we should have a moment of silence to consider our mortality . . .

Now, what are you going to do with the rest of your days? Sit here and read interesting links on the internets? I sure hope so.

Welcome to the Weekly Town Crier, where I collect said interesting links, you read them and then we discuss. Though most of you do not not discuss, so I end up discussing with myself which isn’t quite as interesting, though we do come to a consensus much quicker.

Buy my art here or here or contact me directly to purchase originals.

Visit our family blog: “The Thomas Ten.”

Browse Large Hearted Boy‘s list of “100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads.”

It’s the most wonderful time of year: year-end list time!

  • Listen as All Songs Considered considers the year in music.
  • Browse American Songwriter’s picks for the “Top 50 Albums of 2015.”
  • Browse Consequence of Sound‘s picks for the “Top 50 Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Consequence of Sound‘s picks for the “Top 50 Albums of the Year.”
  • Browse Design Week’s picks for their favorite album covers.
  • Browse FACT‘s picks for the best record labels of the year.
  • Browse Flavorwire‘s picks for “The 50 Best Independent Press Books of 2015.”
  • Browse as the KEXP DJ’s make their picks.
  • Browse NME‘s albums of the year.
  • Browse Noisey‘s picks for songs of the year.
  • Browse as Pandora reveals the top 100 “thumbed up” songs of 2015.
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for the “The 50 Best Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Paste‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse Piccadilly Records‘s choices.
  • Browse Rolling Stone‘s picks.
  • Browse Rough Trade‘s picks for their favorite albums of the year.
  • Browse Spin‘s picks for “The 50 Best Albums of 2015.”
  • Browse Spin‘s picks for the “101 Best Songs of 2015.”
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for their favorite new bands of 2015.
  • Browse Stereogum‘s picks for albums of the year.
  • Browse Uncut‘s favorite albums of 2015.

Browse Brain Pickings list of “The Greatest Books of All Time, As Voted by 125 Famous Authors.”

Browse “15 Reasons Drinking Beer Makes You Live Longer.”

Read Aquarium Drunkard‘s interview with Neko Case.

Browse FashionBeans’ list of “25 Pieces of Timeless Style Advice All Men Should Hear.”

Read as Noisey dissects “Song Exploder”.

Read NPRs report: “Loneliness May Warp Our Genes, And Our Immune Systems.”

Meet the guy whose job it is to let you know if an album has leaked yet.

Read as J.K. Rowling recounts meeting Morrissey.

Browse “A short history of photographic cameras before they went digital.”

Browse Paste‘s picks for “10 EDM Albums For People Who Don’t Like EDM.”

Read/Listen as PRI reflects: “The music of Vince Guaraldi helped make ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas‘ a cultural icon.”

Read as Noisey considers “The Shifting Image Of The Teenage Female Pop Star: How We Got From Britney Spears to Lorde.”

Browse Pitchfork‘s list of “The Muppets‘ Best Musical Moments.”

Choose from “7 Whiskey Drinks That Could Help Cure Your Cold.”

Read “Relevant”‘s report: “Tracy Morgan Says He Had an Encounter with God After His Accident.”

See “A Perfectly Symmetrical Photo of a Kingfisher Diving for Prey, Nearly 6 Years in the Making.”

Read Pitchfork‘s report that Peter Hook is suing the other members of New Order.

Read as Noisey wonders why Black Metal fans are so elitist.

Read AV Club‘s report that Samurai Jack will return to Cartoon Network in 2016.

Read as The Guardian asks why so many writers feel the need to share so much and when is it too much?

Read as Salon considers: “Buy less, do more: 5 reasons why experiences make us happier than things.”

  • Read REI‘s take: “Less stuff, more life.”
  • Read as The Atlantic weighs in: “Buy Experiences, Not Things.”

Take the Poll: Would You Use a Playground for Older People?

Browse Noisey‘s picks for “The Weirdest Records Of All Time.”

Read as The Atlantic considers the Milli Vanilli legacy: “Twenty-five years ago, the lip-syncing models were dethroned—and a class of more sophisticatedly manufactured stars took their place.”

Consider “How Independent Artists and Labels Are Getting Squeezed Out By The ‘Vinyl Revival’.”

Read as Ozy wonders why the US just can’t seem to get on board with high speed rail.

Read as The Washington Post considers “Why today’s college students don’t want to be teachers.”

Meet the app that will “play Nickelback every time you try to contact your ex.”

Read as Fast Company profiles Tesla’s move into the battery business.

Read as The Washington Post considers “Why Americans dress so casually.”

Browse The Phoenix New Times‘s list of “25 Legendary Tempe Music Venues: Then and Now.”

Read The Daily Beast‘s piece: “The Story of Orion: Elvis Presley’s Mysterious, Masked Doppelganger Who Hoodwinked the World.”

Read The Guardian‘s profile of John Fahey: “the guitarist who was too mysterious for the world.”

Read NME‘s report: “Cloud storage backups of personal music collections made illegal in the UK”.

Read as “Relevant” considers “How ‘Peanuts’ Took Faith to Culture”.

R.I.P. Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver.

Have We Finally Reached The Tipping Point For “American Christianity”?

american-flag-cross-1It ought to confuse and convict Christians in America that no one can agree if America is or is not a “Christian nation.” Of course different people mean different things by the term but many argue that if ever a nation has displayed Christian virtue to the world, it is the United States of America. One Nation under God. After all, over 70% of our population claim to be Christians.

The very fact that the debate is debated should throw serious shade on those claiming that we are somehow a nation of Christians. Or even primarily Christians. Jesus said that we would be able to tell who loves Him(John 14:21). We have a Jude0-Christian ethic that was adopted by our founders but they intentionally shied away from establishing a state religion and this includes Christianity. This Judeo-Christian ethic provided the framework for many of our core values as citizens. All men are created equal, etc.. But this is not the same thing as saying that we are a nation of Christians.

In fact, the relationship between the Christian faith and American culture has been tenuous at best and strenuous most of the time, each pushing against the other, each trying to convert the other. Both are highly influential and adaptable. While it might be theoretically possible for both systems to exist side-by-side without changing one other, that’s not how it seems to have worked itself out.

America’s belief system is built on the idea of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps to success. It is intimately intertwined with consumerism, the pursuit of comfort, the right to property and free market tendencies. It is built on the idea of self-reliance and a good dose of morality and sadly sometimes, moral superiority.

Alan Wolfe considers the relationship between Christianity and American culture in his book, The Transformation of American Religion.  “In every aspect of the religious life,” he writes, “American faith has met American culture-and American culture has triumphed.”

That is to say, views certainly shape one another and in Wolfe’s opinion, American culture has won out over Christianity, at least for the majority who claim to be Christian. In fact, the burden of Wolfe’s book is to suggest that, for all the religious rhetoric, professing people of faith, including Christians, are remarkably just like everyone else: “Whether or not the faithful ever were a people apart, they are so no longer,” he says. He goes on to give a bit more insight into his meaning:

More Americans than ever proclaim themselves born again in Christ, but the lord to whom they turn rarely gets angry and frequently strengthens self-esteem.

To people of faith, I say this:  . . . your religion has accommodated itself to modern life in the United States.

How is it then that so many people in America claim some version of Christianity while living just like everyone else? It seems that, after having marinated in American Culture, many people who claim to be Christians have actually drifted away from Christianity altogether, coming up instead with something completely different. Sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton have called this new brand of faith “moralistic therapeutic deism”.

In their 2005 book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton examined the actual, daily-way-we-live faith of teenagers as it has been handed down to them by their parents and their churches. Smith and Denton found that the key distinctives of this strand of faith were as follows:

  • A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  • God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  • The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  • God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  • Good people go to heaven when they die.

This set of beliefs is markedly different than Biblical Christianity but fits quite nicely with the predominant American approach to life, giving credence to Wolfe’s assertion that, when pressed, we must admit that, at least for the most part, American culture has transformed the practice of Christianity in America into something else. Something somehow less. Less potent. Less dangerous. Less sacrificial. More commercial. More self-centered.

In fact it seems quite plausible to argue that Moralistic therapeutic deism has become, for many, synonymous with  “Christianity”. The term has been back-loaded with a different meaning and the result is that many people who may mean markedly different things using the term, can all call themselves “Christian” without being questioned. This is so much the case that  “preachers” like Joel Osteen quite intentionally steer away from the Bible’s themes of sin and judgment, instead promising that we can have Our Best Life Now  if we just live right and think happy. This is not Christianity.

Moralistic therapeutic deism has become the default American version of “Christianity”. This is certainly not to say that there are not people striving to faithfully follow Jesus in America. But they are rarer than we would like to believe. This helps explain why over 70% of Americans profess to be “Christian” and yet Christianity’s influence is so barely seen in our culture. Because Moralistic therapeutic deism has as much to do with Biblical Christianity as “American Cheese” has to do with cheese.

Since Moralist therapeutic deism is not Christianity, we are left with confusion and contradictions between what we as a nation claim to believe and how we actually live. Stephen Colbert has no problem pointing out the inconsistencies:

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

The real issue, of course is that when a good many Americans say they are “Christians”, they really mean “One nation united under moralistic therapeutic deism”. Though we use the word “Christian”, we don’t mean Biblical Christian. We mean good, moral people, who do our best for ourselves (first) and maybe others; we’re generally nice people with God on our side. So to answer Colbert: of course we don’t help the poor because our faith doesn’t require it. Our faith is centered on personal contentment/fulfillment. We may help others when we feel like it but our faith doesn’t necessarily demand lives of sacrificial love. It’s enough, after all, that we attend a worship performance, show our faith by our bumper stickers and thank God for the good parking spot at the mall. This certainly helps explain why some get mad about coffee cups but not social injustice.

This is a critical time for those in America who really do want to follow Jesus. The name “Christian” has been co-opted and commercialized. What are we going to do about it? There are, of course, many people in America who are striving to live everyday life with the intentionality of following Jesus. There are certainly churches helping the poor. There are churches seeking social justice and promoting adoption and foster care. There are, of course, churches welcoming refugees and blessing others with the blessing of Jesus. But sadly, these churches seem to be the minority while countless others have simply confused Therapeutic Moralistic Deism with what it means to follow Jesus.

Jesus said that you will know His people by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20). He also said that you can tell who really loves Him by who keeps His commandments (John 14:21). James said that if we claim to have faith but don’t back it up with our deeds, our “faith” is worthless (James 2:14-26) and John said that if we claim to love God but don’t love others, we’re liars (1 John 4:7-21). Biblical Christianity teaches that, though our works cannot make us right with God, they are the evidence of a life transformed. They are the fruit of the seeds of faith. Being a blessing to others is a fundamental part of what it means to be God’s people (Genesis 12:1-3; Jeremiah 29:1-9; Matthew 5:13-16, etc.) and if our faith isn’t made manifest in sacrificial love to others, we’d better question the real object of our faith. If we as a nation don’t love and serve the “least of these,” we’re not a Christian nation.

We have chances in front of us everyday to help others distinguish between Christianity and Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. The sheep and goats will not fully be separated until Judgment but for now, those who love Jesus can help others understand what this truly means by feeding the hungry, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and incarcerated (Matthew 25:31-46), caring for widows and orphans (James 1:27), etc.

Though we should definitely be clear in our preaching and doctrine to distinguish Biblical Christianity from “American Christianity” (Moralistic Therapeutic Deism), we also have the the responsibility to not just declare but demonstrate the difference. Biblical Christianity should look like love in action (1 Corinthians 13; 1 John 4). Biblical Christianity always points to Jesus rather than self. Biblical Christianity not only proclaims redemption but strives to demonstrate it. Following Jesus means loving others, seeking peace and reconciliation while admitting that we can only seek these things when Jesus enables us to do so.

Will we finally admit and demonstrate that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is not Christianity? The world is watching. What will we show them?